Tupelo School Board 03.17.15

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting is about to begin. All five members are present.

Among other items, the board will decide whether to call an election for a $44 million bond request. It would not require a tax increase.

The board also will vote on new officers for the next year. It elects officers each March at its annual organization meeting.

In addition to this noon meeting at the Hancock Leadership Center, the board also will meet at 5 p.m. at the Early Childhood Education Center. Other than board officers and the bond request, it will vote on the other items at 5 p.m. It will discuss those items during this noon meeting.

The School District’s Parent of the Year also will be recognized at 5 p.m.


12:20 p.m.

The district will recognize its transportation department. Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell said transportation director Lee Stratton does a great job for the district. She notes that he has had to ride the roads at 3:30 a.m. on several mornings recently, checking whether they were safe for buses due to winter weather.

Stratton said he sees the transportation departments job as making sure kids get what they need to have school. We’re like a good official, he said, if we do a good job no one knows we were there.

Stratton recognizes two members of the department, Ms. Robinson and Rev. Nichols for their great work.

12:27 p.m.

Now Sherry Davis will take the oath of office. She was re-appointed by the Mayor and City Council last month. This will be Davis’ first full five-year term. She has been on the board for about a year and a half after filling the unexpired term of Beth Stone, who resigned from the board in late 2013 to spend more time with her family.


12:29 p.m.

School Board will now vote on officers. Taking nominations for president. Eddie Prather nominates Ken Wheeler, who has been vice president.

Wheeler was unanimously elected as president.

Joe Babb was elected vice president. Babb had been secretary.

Eddie Prather was elected secretary.

The election follows the traditional pattern of electing new officers each year. The rotational pattern has been the board member who completed his first year (of first year of a new term) becomes secretary, secretary becomes vice president and vice president becomes president.

Rob Hudson is the outgoing president. He is entering the final year of his term.


Outgoing president Rob Hudson: People from the public approach you and being president can be difficult and I’d imagine in the past it has been. But my experience with the administration, this has been a joy and it hasn’t been arduous at all.

Wheeler: Thank you Mr. Hudson. We look forward to carrying on the things you brought to the board. We have healthy goals for our district. Thank you for your service as president.

The board appoints Mitchell McNutt and Sams as its legal counsel.

12:36 p.m.

Board appoints Modesty Shumpert as the person to post legal notices and as recording secretary.

Board approves who is authorized to provide district signatures on district financial accounts.

It re-affirms previously approved policies, administrative regulations and exhibits, something it does at this time each year.

Board appoints Joe Babb and Eddie Prather to serve on its audit review committee.

It is traditional to elect officers and appoint legal counsel, recording secretary, etc., at its March meeting, which is known as its organizational meeting.

The organizational business has been completed. The board now moves to its regular agenda.

12:41 p.m.

Board approves previous minutes.

12:42 p.m.

Executive director of operations and facilities Andy Cantrell will make a presentation about the district’s long-range facilities plans. This is connected to the bond request. Cantrell introduces Will Lewis and Charles Laney of JBHM who will make the presentation.

They completed a facilities audit of the school district in November to identify needs.

Lewis: Looked at systems, general maintenance, energy efficiency, ADA, etc. Looked at wants, needs and other conditions and developed a program/ summation of that. That was phase 1.

TPSD Community Liaison Mary Ann Plasencia will speak about phase 2.

Early on, information was gathered by the principals and teacher leadership teams at each school. Cantrell talked to principals and teacher leadership teams to begin to cull a wish list. The overall plan reflects at least one or two items on the wish list from each school. That process began late in the fall.

They did two surveys, one for parents and one for staff. They had 117 staff members take the survey. It was online survey with 20 questions and an opportunity for comments.

73 percent supported classroom renovations, 71 percent supported additional ECEC classroom, 79 percent supported security cameras and 77 percent supported new buses.

They had 360 parents take the same survey. Done at the end of January and first week of February.

83 percent supported cameras, 79 percent supported shatter-resistance glass, 85 percent supported energy efficiency, 73 percent supported upgraded laptops and 85 percent supported ECEC expansion.

Plasencia: We thought we got a good turnout and a lot of responses.

She said survey went out to everyone with an email address.

Lewis will speak about phase 3 of the process. They took results of surveys and defined needs, scope of work. They defined priorities and most pressing needs.

Three major categories for needs: energy-efficiency, security and renewals/ upgrades.

Laney will speak now.

All campuses will have security cameras and LED lights.

ECEC, new classrooms


Lawhon 2.6 million (Didn’t catch the numbers at the other schools. I think ECEC was about 3.5 M and Rankin about 2.1M).

Pierce Street: 683K. Create focal entry point there and at THomas Street

Thomas: 682K

Lawndale: Newer school, Doesn’t require as much work. 366K

Joyner: 170K…Just had a lot of work done after tornado

Parkway: Newer school. 450K

Filmore: Roof repair is one of greatest needs. 650K

Carver: 2M, roof and HVAC

Milam: 5.9M….windows, roofs, HVAC and renovating the music suite, new gym treads, painting gym and renovating four classrooms been closed since 1999 for future growth.

Middle School: re-roof and HVAC…classroom addition, 2-3 years it will need that…6.5 M

High School: Roof replacement, HVAC, everyone refers to the high school as the new high school but some HVACs are 23 years old….putting in fixed bleachers in the gym to pick up 300-400 seats…About 5.8M

This work will help spruce up buildings, including several that are as many as 75 years old.

Board member Sherry Davis asks about flooding problems near the round building at Tupelo Middle School. Architects said that would be addressed.

Laney: We looked at overall picture. That is 32M worth of work. Now how are we going to implement it.

Looks at timeline of possible work. Year 1 Rankin, Filmore and the middle school. Will be right at 9.6M

Lewis: It would make sense to focus efforts on specific campuses, on a campus by campus basis.

Year 2 would be Lawhon, Pierce, Lawndale, Parkway and Milam.

Laney: You have to look at how much work can you get done in the summer.

Year 3: Thomas, Carver and high school

Year 4: ECEC and Joyner

Lewis: Other long range needs: Applications have been sent to MEMA and FEMA for safe rooms. Thomas, Joyner and Carver being considered for approval. Also statements of interest for ECEC, Rankin and Lawhon, as well as TMS and Middle School. City parks will have shelters at Pierce and Parkway.

Goal is to deal with maintenance issues, plan for future growth, address Americans with Disabilities act.

Questions for the board.

Wheeler: Is there a plan to re-assess district needs after this four-year project is completed?

Lewis: Any facilities plan has a short-, middle and long-range. It should always be revisited every 3-5 years. It is a large body of work, so you get better results if you maintain it every 3-5 years.

Prather asks about prep work. Lewis: They would do planning, designing and prep work in the months leading up so they can hit the ground with the construction as soon as the summer begins.

Babb asks if there is any cushion with the cost. Lewis said there is some. They are budget numbers based on what they see with inflation factored in. Design work hasn’t been done yet. There is safety factored in it.


Cantrell: Cost:

32 million to maintain facilities for future growth

$3.8 million for buses…would be 42 new buses over the next four years, would week buses between one and 11 years old. (The district has 23 buses that are 15-23 years old…two 1992 buses are being uses every day).

$6 million for technology: new computers, servers and switches.

Total cost of $44 million

Loden said district officials and boards in the past have done a great job of maintaining buildings and buses. Even though two buses are 23 years old, some other districts would love to have those because their buses are even older, Loden said. One of the greatest concerns in Mississippi is the age of buses, he said.

Wheeler: This is an example of good leadership and good stewardship. We need support of our board to get this going forward.

Board attorney Otis Tims: 2013-14 audit submitted to district and findings submitted. District responded to findings and audit report has been submitted to state.

1:13 p.m.

Finance director Rachel Murphree will speak about ad valorem collections. She said total is comparable to the previous two years.

1:15 p.m.

Board moves to new business, including resolution of intent to issue new bonds.

Tims: As a result of the study been going on about needs of district. There have been a number of disucssions by steering committee and other committes about how to finance. There has been a resolution to issue bonds for needs that have been identified.

Jim Young would be bonding attorney. Has been involved with many bonds in the past, Tims said.

Tims notes it has been structured so that even if tax base declines, the bond would not require any new taxes. That is possible because several bonds from the past have been paid off. That is barring a downturn that is significant, worse than we have seen in recent years.

Tupelo School Board unanimously calls for an election on issuing $44 million in new bonds to address these needs. Election would be held on April 28.

Election would be similar to a municipal election. There will be a precinct at the Furniture Market for those who are not residents of the city but are within the school district.

Superintendent Gearl Loden notes the district currently is $76 million under its bonding capacity. That means if needs were to arise in the future before this bond is paid, it would still have room to issue $30 million in new bonds.

Resolution calls for Young Law Firm to serve as bond counsel and Mitchell McNutt and Sams to serve as issuance counsel. There also is a group that serves as a community adviser, registered with the SEC that will provide advice on the financial aspects. I think the name was Community Group, LLC.

Hudson asks about how compensation is derived. Tims: traditionally it is about 1 percent of the value of the bond. This resolution calls for no more than 4/10 of one percent for law firm, community group 3/10 of one percent. Mitchell McNutt would be around 2/10 or one percent.

Babb asks about expectation of number of hours. Young said it is not based on number of hours, it is based on the liability, it is involved with. Said they’ve talked internally can’t imagine cost of issuance being one percent on an issuance of this size. They’ve tried to set upper limits. Said cost will probably be closer to 3/4 of one percent. The unknown is that they probably won’t issue as $44 million. Could be 4 or 5 different bond issues over 4-5 years. That would multiply the time involved. Compensation is based on the liability.

Hudson asks how this compares to the normal compensation. Young said it is a little on the middle, possibly somewhat on the conservative side.

Babb asks if they can vote on that point tonight, on the compensation for the bond issuance. He said he has a couple more questions and wants to understand the arrangement.

1:50 p.m.

Community liaison Mary Ann Plasencia will speak about the launch of the “Safe and Sound” campaign. Amy Tate and Josh Mabus will speak about how they go forward with the campaign. Tate will co-chair the committee with Mike Clayborne.

Tate: I’m here today as a mom and a volunteer. Has two children, one at Milam and one at Lawhon. A quiet community group has come together and formed a committee to talk about the vote. Made up of business folks, retirees, parents. Talked a couple of times about how to get bond issue passed on April 28.

It is a complex issue. We want to make sure we get the word out correctly, so we talked to the Mabus issue about how vision and how to get word out to the voters. Talked to Josh and his staff.

Mabus: When you are starting with a resolution like this, we have a unique opportunity to name this. Looking at this incredibly complex issue, we wanted to simplify this as much as we can.

Includes heating and air, general maintenance, safety. It struck him that we live in the day and age that we dont want to answer the question, what if we don’t fund these safety items.

Technology. District has made a progressive commitment to cutting edge technology. Needs to be upgraded even more often than roofs.

TVA returned a report that it would save district $118,000 each year by switching to energy efficient lights.

Tate: Also working on a plan for town hall meetings, make sure we are at all PTOs, meet with faculty. We want to make sure everyone is covered.

Mabus: You can’t answer every question in the beginning. We’re holding off until we start to get questions from media coverage we will get.

Tate: We called 20 people to serve on the committee. They immediately said yes.

Plasencia: They will send 1-2 committee members to each school this afternoon to answer questions of teachers.

2:31 p.m.

I had to step outside to get interviews related to the bond vote. Board had several housekeeping items.

Now talking about future agenda topics. Board member Sherry Davis asks if they can reconsider dates for the Board’s summer retreat so it doesn’t conflict with her teaching assignments.

Prather asks if there can be a presentation about the graduation coach, how many kids they helped.

Loden said they will have a future presentation about graduation overall. He said they revamped the way they use graduation coaches.

Board will go to executive session. They will also will meet again tonight at 5 p.m. at ECEC.